Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How do you say 'bye-bye' to a killer?

This will be the last post in my series on Eric Nenno, the child-killer I met in 2006.

Unless any of you have questions, of course.

So one thing that sticks in my mind from the visit was the leaving of it. I remember sitting there for the last fifteen minutes wondering what the heck one says to a guy who's about to be executed. Remember, I met him on a Friday afternoon, his execution was scheduled (and was carried out) on the following Tuesday.

"Have a nice life" (okay, clearly not that one)?
"Have a nice weekend" (because that's all ya got left)?
"Take care of yourself" (before someone else does)?
"Seeya" (hopefully not, and certainly not for a while)?

In the end I opted for "Thanks for your time, good luck." And a slightly awkward wave through the glass.


  1. Hmmm . . . that's a tough one. It doesn't get much more awkward than that, I suppose!

  2. I think that's about as much as you can say.

    Loved this series.

  3. Lisa: quite right. Although he didn't seem too awkward, other things on his mind, I guess. *shrug*

    Jen: I agree, and thanks. :)

  4. DAC, I think most of the questions you've answered have been mine (I'm the one you kindly called your "eloquent anon"), and I thank you for answering them. I've been meaning to comment on your responses individually and I have not yet had time to do so.

    As for how to say bye to someone whose execution is impending, I think this came up for Werner Herzog when he concluded his interview with Texas condemned inmate Michael Perry, days before his execution. (http://movies.nytimes.com/2011/11/11/movies/into-the-abyss-by-werner-herzog-review.html) Herzog opposes the death penalty, unlike you, but he certainly had no love for the co-perpetrator of this triple homicide, as he explained to Perry: "Destiny, in a way, has dealt you a very bad deck of cards. It does not exonerate you and when I talk to you, it does not necessarily mean that I have to like you, but I respect you and you are a human being and I think human beings should not be executed."

    Herzog concluded his interview with something like, "Michael Perry. I wish you all the best." I found his conclusion somewhat awkward, too ... what DO you say to someone who is physically healthy, days away from death, and who has committed an unfixable and arguably unforgiveable act? What I find interesting about his concluding words and yours is that - despite the fact that both of you were clearly somewhat uncomfortable with speaking to a condemned perpetrator of a horrific act - you both chose to end with something positive - you with "good luck," and him with "I wish you all the best."

    It makes me, as a capital litigator, reflect on how so often in this work, there is nothing really adequate or fitting to say.


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